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Senators Schumer and Gillibrand during their Adirondack visit. Photo: Mark Kurtz
Senators Schumer and Gillibrand during their Adirondack visit. Photo: Mark Kurtz

Senators focus on Adirondack biotech

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U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand wrapped up their rare joint visit to the Adirondacks Friday at the Adirondack Regional Airport in Lake Clear.

They took part in a roundtable discussion that focused on what local officials have described as a key economic development initiative: the effort to make Saranac Lake a hub for biotechnology endeavors.

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Chris Knight
Adirondack Correspondent

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The idea that Saranac Lake could become a biotech cluster has been getting a lot of lip service lately, and for good reason. Village officials recently announced the move of two Lake Placid biotech companies - Active Motif and Myriad RBM - to Saranac Lake. They'll be just down the road from Trudeau Institute, a world-renowned nonprofit biomedical research center, and a short drive away from another biotech company, Bionique Testing Laboratories, in a business park near the airport.

Gillibrand and Schumer said they see the makings of a bioscience cluster in Saranac Lake that could spur more growth and bring more jobs to the area.

"The fact that we have three successful companies, and the fact that Trudeau has stayed and can help spawn new companies, that's the key here," Schumer said.

"Being able to share this table with so many of you who are entirely focused on creating jobs and making sure our economy grows is very rewarding," Gillibrand said.

Schumer asked representatives of the three biotech companies to name their obstacles to future growth.

They said the uncertain business climate, which has curtailed new investment, and possible budget cuts to the National Institutes of Health were their biggest worries. NIH funds about 80 percent of the research at Trudeau Institute and indirectly supports the bioscience companies.

Scott Paschke is Active Motif's Director of Business Development, said,  "We don't get NIH grants but we sell reagents to researchers. The money they get through NIH allows them to buy our products. If that was to fall, that would be terrible, not only for academics; there's just so much business that's attached to it."

Schumer said NIH funding is "seed corn."

"That's what creates new jobs,” he said. “The kind of scientific research that allows these folks to grow and expand, and allows Trudeau to do more, is the future of this country. And to cut it makes no sense. That's one of the fights."

The idea of a Saranac Lake biotech cluster centered around Trudeau Institute would have seemed less likely seven months ago, when the Institute's board was considering relocating closer to a university campus or research hospital. But the Institute's board has since decided to stay in Saranac Lake, and Terry Gach, Trudeau's vice president for institutional advancement, said Friday that they want to work closely with the biotech companies.

"We're looking at business opportunities we can partner on,” Gach said. “We have certain facilities available that we have access to that can help their businesses. It's an exciting time. We have a lot going on, and I think the concept of a biocluster here in the Saranac Lake area is alive, well and will continue to expand."

In addition to their visit to the Lake Clear airport, Schumer and Gillibrand also made joint appearances Friday in Long Lake and at North Country Community College in Saranac Lake.

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